OT (!) What is your association?

Bleisetzer's picture

Dear collueges from all over the world,
as you might know, I am working in the letterpress pre-print market:

But although I am a writer of short stories and others and I am just preparing my new literature blog at www.preussen-blog.de (its not ready yet, sorry.)

Right now I am working on an essay about the smell of languages.
I for myself associate e.g. french with love & erotic, finish with a motor bycicle and so on... I think its always depending on what you individually learned in your first 20 years and what your special country culture says to you, what you associate to a language.

But now the question, where I'ld like to ask for your help:

What do you as a non german associate with the sound of german language?

Thanks in advance for your help. I hope, I do not disturb too much with my OT question.


Fontgrube's picture

Oh! Weed cookies? You obviously enjoyed them!

SCNR, Andreas

Bleisetzer's picture

Ah... ja... danke.

typofoto's picture

I associate the German language with drama. For instance, the opening scene of Die Dreigroschenoper.

"Jahrmarkt in Soho. Die Bettler betteln, die Diebe stehlen, die Huren huren. Ein Moritatensänger singt eine Moritat."

Or torch songs:
"Wenn ich ich mir was wünschen dürfte,
Käme ich in Verlegenheit ... "

dezcom's picture

Gustav Mahler

Nick Shinn's picture

The main German media stereotype when I was growing up (England in the '50s and '60s) was the sadistic Nazi/SS officer in war movies that demonized Germans. And Hitler ranting. So I have been indoctrinated with the impression that the German language is harsh and evil. The Tool recording plays on that, with words that are completely innocuous made to sound like a satanic ritual.

Car ads here (Canada) are disgusting, with their cliché of the humourless German engineer. It's not just Japanese or American manufacturers who exploit that stereotype, but some German too, e.g. Audi, with a seriously guttural man's voice saying the tagline "Vorsprung durch Technik" (Progress through technology).

As an aside, I find that English spoken with a German accent is very pleasant. That may well be because of the Germans I have known in recent years, in my dealings with FontShop.

Even more of an aside, I thought Kate Winslet's German accented English in The Reader was brilliant.

riccard0's picture

Uhm, Bleisetzer, aren’t they just called stereotypes?

Edit: Nick beat me to it.

Don McCahill's picture

I find the German language harsh and intimidating. I wonder what a German love song sounds like ... surely less so than the war movie and Hitler clips I grew up hearing.

Compared to the aptly named Romance languages, German and Dutch seem harsher (and the former moreso). Of course, it is entirely possible that English sounds the same to a Francophone.

russellm's picture

I don't remember where or when I heard this or who said it, but there is a quote that goes something like this: "If French is the language for love, German is the language for yelling at horses".

That's a little harsh in my opinion. :o)

another thing I heared was that when a German says "hello", it sounds like he's getting ready to invade Poland.

Also rather harsh. :o)

It sounds like you are talking about something like synaesthesia, Bleisetzer, in which case, I'd associate with the German Language, with a good and heavy course dark bread.

litera's picture


Heavy machinery... Industry... Steel... Huge soulless concrete... Still hanging thin flags...

Jan's picture

Our love songs sound like yelling at horses. That’s true.
But at least we are polite enough to say ‘hallo’ before we bring on the blitzkrieg.
Demokratie Schtonk! Liberty Schtonk! Free Sprecken Schtonk!

Indra Kupferschmid's picture

I want a *love* button for Jan's comment.

Theunis de Jong's picture

"Tausendmal Du", Mönchener Freiheit. Luvely song. Recently, "Haus am See" (Peter Fox) was a huge hit here in Holland as well.

I also have several CDs by Rammstein, but that's really something quite else :-D

david h's picture

> ...associate with the sound of german language?

Käthe Kollwitz
Otto Dix

Igor Freiberger's picture

What do you as a non German associate with the sound of German language?

Precision, technique, organization, exact combination of words to express whole concepts, complexity, difficulty to understand the language, an usually non-emotional, cool and controlled speech.

DTY's picture

"Je parle espagnol à Dieu, italien aux femmes, français aux hommes, et allemand à mon cheval."

More seriously, I associate German with excessive amounts of beer, choking clouds of cigarette smoke, and meals that consist almost entirely of meat.

JoergGustafs's picture

> français aux hommes

There’s a slightly different saying but I won’t quote it here… ;)

Seriously, the cliché about Germany/Germans I’m generally confronted with is either ridden by the image of the brutish Pickelhaubenmaschinenmensch (wow, this word sounds like machine gun staccato!) or the one of a slightly deranged dreamer who’s getting bitchy as soon as you’re talking about his nationality. Actually, I can identify with both, getting something positive out of both these clichés.

The scent of German is dominated by motor oil and decay. Maybe due to the fact that motor oil and decay smell somehow stronger than the scents renowned as more ‘humane’. Or maybe because we lack the ability to mask the bad smell properly by spraying rose petal or bubble gum scented air freshener.

Also check this great film:


Ray Larabie's picture

German progressive rock.

riccard0's picture

Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken sie abends
wir trinken sie mittags und morgens wir trinken sie nachts
wir trinken und trinken
wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lüften da liegt man nicht eng
Ein Mann wohnt im Haus der spielt mit den Schlangen der schreibt
der schreibt wenn es dunkelt nach Deutschland dein goldenes Haar Margarete
er schreibt es und tritt vor das Haus und es blitzen die Sterne er pfeift seine Rüden herbei
er pfeift seine Juden hervor läßt schaufeln ein Grab in der Erde
er befiehlt uns spielt auf nun zum Tanz

1985's picture



Wings of Desire was my first realistic exposure to German language. I guess I think of it then having a measured introspective thoughtfulness.

Precision, technique, organization, exact combination of words to express whole concepts, complexity, difficulty to understand the language, an usually non-emotional, cool and controlled speech.

But also some simple, poetic expressions: Vom Regen in die Traufe.

1985's picture

Turns out Peter Handke (author of the above) is a rather dubious fellow, apologies.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Jägers first helping us to fight Sovjets from invading us, then same jägers burning Lapland while we fought them out of Finland. Then DDR and West Germany, with Stasi and Mercedez Benz, then breaking of the wall, and now Merkel fighing to stay in charge. In short.

Bleisetzer's picture

Wouh... impressing :-)

Thank you very much for your answers and suggestions.
I have to read it on weekend, where I have more time.

My new shortstory blog is ready now. It's in german, sry about that:


Ton Aner's picture

Turns out ‘their’ ‘dissidents’ are per definition heroes and ‘our’ ‘dissidents’ are per same dubious fellows – so much so that we have to extend our apologies for … what? Acknowledging their existence?

1985's picture

I was apologising for my ignorance.

Bleisetzer's picture

For sure: I love your answers.

I agree with ricardo:
Assoziations to the sound of language are stereotypes.
But exactly this is, what I wanted to know.

I for myself are not able to say what I associate to it. I am to close to it.

Don McCahill - you asked for a german love song:
This was our wedding song in 1983:

harsh and rought - this was what I expected.
On the other hand... there are so wonderfull poems about romantic in german.

david hamuel: käthe kollwitz. Yes, hard and rough and truely german.

I do not want to know what you associate to germans / Germany.
Because I think I have an idea about that.
I just want to know your suggestions of the SOUND of german language.

Last question:
Does this voice sound sexy to you?
Don't look to the woman. DON'T LOOK, you, too, yes, YOU. ^^



metalfoot's picture

German evokes to me beer, theology, and nice cars.

mili's picture

I used to find German angular and harsh, but after living in Munich for a year I just love it. I find it slightly amusing at times these days, but it's more to do with words and grammar than how it sounds. My own German is very poor with a slight Bavarian accent.

As for the first Youtube example, she sounds lovely. I also enjoy Kettcar, I like the way the singer pronounces noch, wenig and Hamburg. The lyrics are too difficult for me.

Before getting to know the country and the people a bit, I had pretty much the same thoughts as Tomi, added with sausage and sauerkraut

I find it interesting, that you find Finnish sounding like a motorcycle. In this song maybe the beat but the lyrics?

TypeSETit's picture

I love this thread. I love the german language. With a last name like Leuschke, I better.

(If you're not American, the humor below may not translate)

English "Bomb" = German "LoudenBümer"

English "Nuclear Warhead" = German "EhrgaSchplitten LoudenBümer"

English "Vaseline" = German "Der VeinerSchlicker"

English "Bra" = German "Holzem Frumfloppen"

dezcom's picture


Ton Aner's picture

Your ignorance of what?

russellm's picture

Here is something for you:

you can generat your own fake German with the Duck Island Greeking Machine, pseudo German "Mitten verboten frankfurter hinder footzerstompen morgen heinee biergarten sauerkraut ya nutske, poppin gewerkin."

Then, there' Nina Hagen's real German (with some Finnish content)

JoergGustafs's picture



garyw's picture

>German progressive rock.

Boing Boom Tschak!

Bleisetzer's picture

Here you have both:
german old style - rough and hard
german new style - easy going:

Have fun.


1985's picture

Your ignorance of what?

What's your point, Ton?

Jennie Wojtulewicz's picture

@Leuschke: Your translations are cracking me up! Hilarious!

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